Youth suicide prevention is a major public health priority. Studies documenting the effectiveness of community-based suicide prevention programs in reducing the number of nonlethal suicide attempts have been sparse.
To determine whether a reduction in suicide attempts among youths occurs following the implementation of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Suicide Prevention Program (hereafter referred to as the GLS program), consistent with the reduction in mortality documented previously.
Design, Setting, and Participants
We conducted an observational study of community-based suicide prevention programs for youths across 46 states and 12 tribal communities. The study compared 466 counties implementing the GLS program between 2006 and 2009 with 1161 counties that shared key preintervention characteristics but were not exposed to the GLS program. The unweighted rounded numbers of respondents used in this analysis were 84 000 in the control group and 57 000 in the intervention group. We used propensity score–based techniques to increase comparability (on background characteristics) between counties that implemented the GLS program and counties that did not. We combined information on program activities collected by the GLS national evaluation with information on county characteristics from several secondary sources. The data analysis was performed between April and August 2014. P < .05 was considered statistically significant.
Comprehensive, multifaceted suicide prevention programs, including gatekeeper training, education and mental health awareness programs, screening activities, improved community partnerships and linkages to service, programs for suicide survivors, and crisis hotlines.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Suicide attempt rates for each county following implementation of the GLS program for youths 16 to 23 years of age at the time the program activities were implemented. We obtained this information from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health administered to a large national probabilistic sample between 2008 and 2011.
Counties implementing GLS program activities had significantly lower suicide attempt rates among youths 16 to 23 years of age in the year following implementation of the GLS program than did similar counties that did not implement GLS program activities (4.9 fewer attempts per 1000 youths [95% CI, 1.8-8.0 fewer attempts per 1000 youths]; P = .003). More than 79 000 suicide attempts may have been averted during the period studied following implementation of the GLS program. There was no significant difference in suicide attempt rates among individuals older than 23 years during that same period. There was no evidence of longer-term differences in suicide attempt rates.
Conclusions and Relevance
Comprehensive GLS program activities were associated with a reduction in suicide attempt rates. Sustained suicide prevention programming efforts may be needed to maintain the reduction in suicide attempt rates.